How This Nigerian Female Architect Built A Multi-Million Dollar Business
Every entrepreneur is like a person in a race. There is a prize to be won, and the aim is to win and change the world while at it.
The race does not care for one’s descent as the reward is personal and not tied to anyone. An indigent or influential background is no guarantee of success.
This is the success story of Offiong Ekanem Ejindu, popularly known as Fifi Ejindu, the founder and CEO of Building Support Systems and the Principal Partner of Starcrest Group of Companies.
She is a Nigerian Neo-traditional Architect, a fashionista, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.
Here is how she did it.
Early Life And Childhood
Offiong Ekanem Ejindu was born on the 21st of May, 1962 and raised in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, Nigeria.
Her father, Professor Sylvester Joseph Una, hailed from Uyo in Akwa Ibom State. He was the very first minister of health in the Eastern Region, pre-independence, and a Member of the House of Parliament, as it was called then.
Her mother was a graduate of the Leeds University in the United Kingdom.
Fifi Ejindu is the great-granddaughter of King James Ekpo Bassey of Cobham Town in Calabar, Nigeria. Her mother’s grandfather was crowned King of Cobham Town by Queen Victoria in 1893. She goes by the title of Her Highness Obonganwan King James, a title she inherited from her late mother.
She is married to Amechi Ejindu, her husband of over 25 years and a partner in her business. Her son is a graduate of Architecture and works with her at Starcrest Group in the Nigerian office.
Young Fifi Ejindu attended the Senior Staff School at the University of Ibadan campus for her primary school education and Queens’ College in Yaba, Lagos for her secondary education.
Following the completion of her secondary school education at the age of 16, she proceeded to the US to study architecture at Pratt Institute, a private design college in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1983, she graduated from Pratt, becoming the first black African woman to be awarded a B.Arch. from the institute. After graduating, Ejindu took courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before she went on to work at Grant Associates in New York City.
She then returned to Pratt Institute to get her Masters in Urban Planning after which she returned to Nigeria.
Journey Into Entrepreneurship
On Fifi Ejindu’s return to her country, Nigeria, she started an architectural firm. The firm, known as Starcrest Group of Companies started in 1995 and comprises Starcrest Investment Ltd, Starcrest Associates Ltd and Starcrest Industries Ltd, all involved in real estate, oil and gas, and building construction respectively.
Under her leadership, the Starcrest Investment Ltd sought and secured the support of former president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in influencing fifty prominent business owners from the United Arab Emirates to invest in different sectors of the Nigerian economy, a move that created job opportunities for Nigerians and increased the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Starcrest Associates is the subsidiary responsible for building designs, construction of residential villas and estates, architectural services, urban planning, engineering services and interior decorating. The subsidiary is also involved in project management from its commencement to its conclusion.
Through the platform of this company, she has designed and built several projects for individuals, the government and companies. The company was responsible for building the Spanish Ambassador’s apartment in Maitama, Abuja.
She is also responsible for the design of the official apartment of Professor Charles Soludo, a one time governor of the Central Bank Of Nigeria. Soludo saw one of her works and contacted her for the job without previous knowledge of who she was.
As an architect, Fifi Ejindu describes her work as “Neo-traditional”. She defines the term as “building a new project with new materials, but with traditional and old-style details and features”; hence, most of her projects, as she explains, bring back the Renaissance period.
Fifi Ejindu is known for her philanthropic acts, although she is not known to reveal the percentage of her income that goes into this.
After her 50th birthday, she founded Hope Centres. “The idea is to get the youths off the street, so they can acquire skills with which they can sustain themselves. This should give them hope and inspire a sense of belonging by lifting them out of abject poverty. Access to decent work is an antidote to social exclusion across the globe,” she explained in an interview.
A princess by birth, she has revealed herself to be one in heart and character through her love for the needy and destitute. Her NGO, Hope Centres, has become a haven for youths and a place for skill acquisition.
Fifi Ejindu is passionate about fashion. She showed this by her launch of a fashion line, Fifi Collection, in 2012. Fifi Collection is not only a fashion house but also a source of funding for her foundation. “The collection encompasses indigenous fabrics that have been embellished and enhanced to create the Ankara luxury lace,” she said in an interview.
She is also the brain behind the African Fashion and Arts Banquet which had its first edition in 2013. Concerning this, she was reported as saying, “This fundraiser will not only be the first African Arts and Fashion initiative amongst other charities that will support exceptionally talented student designers and artists along with emerging designers and artists, but will also recognise those who have contributed immensely to youth and women empowerment programmes as well as to the growth of the creative industry in Africa. The banquet will also emphasise that the time has come for the much-awaited African arts and style renaissance.”
She was also the patron of Africa Fashion Week London 2013.
Awards, Feature And Recognitions
- Fifi Ejindu was awarded the “Honorary Patron Membership” of the elite Dubai Icons Club
- Featured in the Famous African Women Architects Magazine published by People Maven – 2018 Edition
- Pronounced winner of “The Nigerian Golden Book Professional Icon Award” in 2015
- Recognized as one of the Top Twenty Inspirational Women in 2015 by the African Diaspora Professional Women in Europe (ADIPWE)
- Fifi Ejindu won the “Diaspora Excellence Award” in 2015
- Fifi Ejindu was the winner of the 2014 African Child Nobel Prize
- Awarded by the African Achievers Awards for the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at The Dorchester Hotel in 2013.
- Enlisted into the Global Women Leaders Hall of Fame – African Chapter. She was one of Africa’s top 20 Women of Influence in 2013.
- Recommended by the Georgia House of Representatives, America for her achievements.
- Fifi Ejindu was awarded as the “African Female Economic Champion” in 2013.
- Presented with the award of the “Patriotic Women of Integrity International award” in 2004.
- Fifi Ejindu received the “African International Achievers Merit Award for excellence” from the Soroptimist Club of Abuja.
- Princess Fifi Ejindu is a member of the Nigerian National Heritage Council.
- Fifi Ejindu was one of the eleven-member technical committee set up by the government of Akwa Ibom state to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to the state.
- Fifi Ejindu is the founder of The African Arts and Fashion initiative and has been identified as one of the leading female architects in Nigeria.
As Fifi Ejindu says, “I am a creative person, so I would create for myself the things I want to see around me.”
You are the creator of what you want out of your life, and in extension, your business. What you create is what you will see.
Take charge today!